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The best free Android apps to have on your smartphone or tablet

With more than 3 million Android apps on the Google Play store, it can be pretty difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff – so we’ve done it for you. 

Anyone who owns a smartphone will know that, like any relationship, things can get kind of stale after a while. You just don’t feel that “spark” any more.

We all know the basics – Instagram, Twitter, YouTube – but let’s face it, that stuff can get kind of boring after a while. So, instead of compiling a list of stuff you already know about, we’ve collected a bunch of fantastic apps you may never have heard of.

These applications will increase your productivity, improve user experience and offer some awesome features that will allow you to get the most out of your Android smartphone.

Oh, and they’re all free.

1. Joey

Apart from being the only third-party Reddit app that autoplays GIFs and videos, Joey has a beautiful design, nearly unlimited customisation options and a life-saving comment collapser that makes browsing threads an absolute pleasure. Includes everything from text-to-speech to a magazine-style interface for AMAs. The unquestionable king of Reddit clients.

Alternative: Sync for reddit

2. Inoreader

Inoreader is an excellent news app with a gorgeous, minimalist design dedicated to giving you the best news-reading experience. The app aggregates news from a variety of sources similarly to Apple News or Google News, however, Inoreader’s personalisation features blow the competition out of the water. The app allows you to subscribe to unlimited news feeds and folders, save and share articles and offers a handy night mode.

Alternative: Google News

3. Black Player EX

We all know that Apple Music and Spotify are good options for streaming music, but Black Player EX is an elegant music player for tracks you own outside those services. Highly customisable, it supports a variety of file formats and allows you to curate your collection however you wish. Whether you want to embed lyrics, add alternative album covers or sort your T-Pain albums by how much auto-tune is used, Black Player EX will allow you to do it.

Alternative: Vanilla Music

4. Podcast Addict

My personal favourite app on Android, Podcast Addict allows you to listen to podcasts, radio, audio books, YouTube, Twitch and Soundcloud all within the one app. There are built-in audio controls for adjusting playback speed, boosting volume and skipping periods of silence; there’s even a sleep timer if you want to fall asleep to Sam Harris’ mellow tones. But Podcast Addict’s greatest feature is that it lets you mark down interesting things you hear using bookmarks and notes. The must-have app for podcast lovers everywhere.

Alternative: BeyondPod Podcast Manager

The best podcasts to grow your brain and impress your friends

5. Moon+ Reader

A simple, elegant book reader that allows you to read books locally. Moon+ Reader supports all the relevant formats and provides direct access to online ebook libraries like Project Gutenberg. The app offers every luxury an avid reader could want, from the ability to adjust line space and font to an “eye health” mode for long-time reading. Best of all, you can highlight and annotate what you’re reading and export your notes when you’re done.

Alternative: FBReader

6. Android Auto

Android Auto is the closest thing most of us will get to the fancy driving assistant featured in expensive cars. Basically, when the app is open, your phone displays a simple interface that allows you to safely use GPS, make calls and play music. The Google Assistant allows you to use voice commands to make calls, set reminders and control your favourite media apps. It’s way less distracting and makes your phone safer for GPS while in a dash holder or car mount.

Alternative: AutoMate

7. EasyJoin

Kind of like an Android alternative to Apple’s excellent Airdrop, EasyJoin allows you to connect with users on the same network without internet or pairing. No cables, no wires. While EasyJoin allows you to transfer files easily between your phone and PC, it also offers a variety of other functions. You can send SMS messages from your PC, share multiple large files and folders quickly and even quickly send things that are copied to your clipboard. The app is encrypted end-to-end too, so you don’t need to worry about privacy.

Alternative: AirDroid

8. MX Player

What’s the point of having an Android phone with a delicious screen if you’re not going to use it to watch movies and TV shows? The hardware acceleration and multi-core decoding of MX Player ensures you’ll be able to watch any video file you throw at it. Its simple interface is a pleasure to use, and gestures are integrated wonderfully to ensure whatever you’re watching isn’t surrounded by ugly buttons and menus. The attention to detail in MX Player’s design is so good, you can even change the style and colour of subtitles.

Alternative: VLC Player

9. Bitwarden

With your ever-increasing number of online accounts and passwords, it’s become nearly impossible to keep track of them all. Bitwarden is a quick, safe and convenient tool to keep your logins secure. As well as being able to store all your details in its “secure vault” which is accessible on your phone or desktop, the app also auto-fills your logins whenever you need them. Bitwarden also suggests suitable, secure passwords and is 100% open-source software.

Alternative: Keepass2Android

10. Nova Launcher

Nova Launcher has been the top launcher for years now, and while there are more options available than ever, it’s still the most customisable. For those unaware, launchers replace your home screen with one offering more control and customisation. You can change everything from icons, layouts and animations to gestures and widgets. Many, many hours have been wasted by yours truly in an attempt to design the perfect Android experience.

Alternative: Action Launcher

11. Telegram

While WhatsApp is the most popular group messaging app, nothing compares to the features and usability of Telegram. It has a great, simple design and offers the fastest messaging on the market. Not only that, but your messages are synced across all your devices; you can also share videos, photos and any other large documents with no limit on size. Telegram offers unmatched privacy, even allowing “Secret Chats” which self-destruct automatically. I’m trying to convince my group chat to make the leap!

Alternative: WhatsApp Messenger

12. Advanced Download Manager

One of the major benefits of the Android system is the ability to download media straight to your device. Advanced Download Manager allows you to download almost any file you could think of from your browser straight to your smartphone. You can download up to three files simultaneously, queue downloads and automate them to operate on a schedule. There’s also a built-in browser to simplify your search for legal and downloadable videos, music and other files. A far better option than Android’s native application.

Alternative: Downloader & Private Browser

13. CamScanner

Gone are the days of scanning documents and images on bulky printers. Now, apps like CamScanner allow you to scan, store, sync and collaborate on documents right from your smartphone. All you need to do is point your camera at whatever you wish to scan – receipts, notes, invoices, etc. – and CamScanner will do the rest for you. CamScanner optimises scan quality, can recognise and extract text from documents and even allows you to edit your files once they’re scanned into your secure database. If you need to scan your medical certificate to send to your boss for that sickie you took, this is your app.

Alternative: Google Drive

14. Search’em All

We all know that Google is the go-to for regular searches, but Search’em All offers a service that Google doesn’t always make easy. The app allows you to search all over the web at once in a clear, user-friendly format with results collated from a bunch of handy websites. Simply choose a category – web, image, video, books or articles – enter your search term and watch Search’em All do the rest of the work. It’s simple to use, easy to navigate and makes searching for specific “meta” items a whole lot easier than standard search engines.

Alternative: Google

15. Google Opinion Rewards

Google Opinion Rewards is simple: answer quick and simple surveys and earn Google Play credit. Are you giving up a creepy amount of information? Sure. Is Google collecting data on us for their eventual world take-over? Of course. Does the fact that you can use this credit to purchase apps, movies, TV shows and games on the Play store make up for this gross data collection? Hell-to-the-yes. Honestly, though, the app is great. There are no ads or hidden requirements, and the money is available straight away.

Alternative: Panel App

16. Brave

While there’s no shortage of great browser options, not many come with built-in adblocking, a 2x speed increase and data and battery optimisation. Brave gives the best browser experience on Android, allowing you to control your privacy, save money on data and avoid nasty popups, malware and trackers. The best all-around browser experience available, with unmatched privacy options and a killer lion logo – Brave is a winner.

Alternative: Google Chrome

Introduction to Brave Privacy & Adblocker Browser from Brave on Vimeo.

About the author

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.

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Comments (1)


    Wednesday 21 November 2018

    Your claim in #1 that Joey is the only third-party Reddit client to auto-play gifs and videos is incorrect. Boost For Reddit has had this feature since March 2018.

    MX Player was recently bought from its original developers by T.I.I. which sparked some concerns over the apps future because of TII’s allegedly shady business practices. https://www.xda-developers.com/mx-player-reportedly-bought-200-million/amp/